Keystone Light is a light American lager first introduced in 1989. It offers a smooth, easy drinking experience, with a clean, crisp taste and an easygoing finish. As an American light lager, it lacks complexity or boldness and instead focuses on offering a refreshing, easy drinking experience.

Keystone Light’s pale color, bottom-fermented yeast strain, and 4.1% ABV make it a classic American light lager. It is a mass-produced, widely available beer produced by the Molson Coors Beverage Company. Its smoothness and lack of discernible character are major selling points for this American beer.

In this article, we’ll closely examine the Keystone Light drinking experience. Read on if you’ve ever wondered what Keystone Light tastes like and how it feels to enjoy a cold, refreshing Keystone. 

Why Is Keystone Light a Lager?

You can easily classify most beers, especially mass-produced beers like Keystone Light, as either ales or lagers. Ales are usually stronger in taste with more body, while lagers tend to be cleaner and crisper. Lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast, while ales use top-fermenting yeast.

Keystone, with its clean, crisp flavor palate and bottom-fermenting brewing process, is a standard lager. It is fermented in the lower temperature range of 35-50 F, which is typical for a lager.

What Kind Of Lager Is Keystone Light?

There are many different lager types, from dark, heavy, German-style beers to ultra-light American-style blonde lagers. Many American lagers focus on being drinkable and refreshing, especially the mass-produced beers like Keystone Light. 

Keystone Light was introduced in 1989 to capitalize on a domestic market that increasingly preferred beers with fewer calories at the height of American light beer’s popularity. An increasingly health-conscious beer-drinking public embraced Bud Light and Coors Light with open arms, and Keystone jumped on the bandwagon.

Today, Keystone Light is one of the most widely available varieties of Keystone. If you live anywhere in the United States, you can probably go to your local gas station or liquor store to pick up a six-pack of Keystone Light. It’s widely distributed and very popular.

Keystone Light’s near-total lack of bitterness and pale color place it squarely in the American lager category. Its low-calorie count is what makes Keystone Light a light lager. 

Has Keystone Light Always Been An American Light Lager?

Keystone Light entered the market in 1989 as a low-calorie alternative to the full-strength Keystone that was then widely available. It quickly became among the most popular offerings under the Molson Coors banner. 

Keystone Light is a beer in the long-standing, popular tradition of American light lagers offering reduced alcohol content and calories compared to full-strength beer. Light lagers do not always have reduced alcohol levels, however. Keystone Light’s ABV of approximately 4.1% is around the standard for American light lagers.

With an IBU (a bitterness rating) of only 6.8, 101 calories, and 4.7g of carbs per 12oz serving, Keystone Light is one of the smoothest, least flavorsome beers on the market.

Keystone Light Flavor

Keystone Light was designed to have minimal flavor, and any trace of hoppy bitterness is virtually absent from this beer. It has a touch of bready flavor, with faintly sweet grain notes. It also has a hint of corniness, but it tastes very soft and inoffensive.

With minimal bitterness and a smooth, almost watery finish, the strongest flavor note in Keystone Light is its slight bread flavor.

Keystone Light also has almost zero aftertaste. We’re sure that if you powered through enough Keystone Light in one sitting, it would build up some aftertaste, but it’s hard to identify any lingering notes after the first sip.

Keystone Light offers a very smooth, refreshing drinking experience and is remarkably smooth and watery. Keystone Light feels best suited to a hot summer’s day or cooling off after a hard day’s work. A cold glass of Keystone Light goes down very easily, and one can easily imagine drinking several over a long, hot summer’s day.

Keystone Light, for many Americans, recalls college parties and is frequently cited as one of the first beers many drinkers tried in their youth. Perhaps it’s nostalgia or the smooth, crisp drinking experience, but Keystone Light’s lack of flavor doesn’t work against it. In fact, it’s a significant selling point, and this beer remains popular throughout the United States.

Keystone Light Appearance

Keystone Light’s marketing often focused on the beer coming in a can. Before we get to the beer’s packaging, we’ll check out how Keystone Light looks poured into a beer glass.

Keystone Light pours a pale, straw-colored beer without much head to start with. What little white head there is quickly dissipates, and the beer has little by way of effervescence in the glass. While some other beers might offer some liveliness and fireworks, Coors Light has minimal carbonation, and this is apparent when looking at the glass.

Keystone Light comes in silver-and-blue packaging, not unlike that of Molson Coors’s other light beer, Coors Light. The packaging bears silver peaks that could be mountains or glaciers. This brings to mind cold, crisp outdoor adventures, creating an association with cleanness and coldness for the beer.

Overall, Keystone Light doesn’t offer anything too special in appearance, but that’s exactly what this beer is about.

Keystone Light Brewing Process & Ingredients

Keystone Light is brewed using water, barley malt, corn syrup, bottom-fermenting yeast, and hop extract. It is brewed at lower temperatures, around 35-50 F. Keystone in the United States is brewed at one of Coors Molson’s breweries, including:

  • Golden, Colorado (Opened in 1873) Original Coors Brewery
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Opened in 1855) Original Miller brewery
  • Denver, Colorado (Opened in 1995)
  • Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (Opened in 1867)

Coors Molson uses a blend of Chinook, Hallertau, Herkules, and Taurus hop extracts to brew their beer. Keystone is brewed using a combination of these hop varieties, but it’s unclear what ratio. Keystone’s hop flavor is minimal, so one could surmise that it is not brewed using many or intensely flavored hops.

Keystone Light Brewing History

Keystone was first introduced to the market in 1989, launched in California with a marketing campaign focused on the smoothness of the Keystone drinking experience.

Keystone Light outsold the standard Keystone, and Keystone Light emerged as the leader for the Keystone brand. Keystone was rebranded as Keystone Premium, and Keystone Light is still the bestselling Keystone beer to this day.

Because Coors Molson, whose namesake brand Coors also features a bestselling light beer, many drinkers believe that Keystone and Coors are the same beer.

In reality, Keystone was designed to be a smoother, easier drinking experience than the already very light drinking experience of Coors and Coors Light. Throughout the 1980s, before the craft beer boom, American drinkers increasingly favored beers that were light in flavor and light in calories. Keystone Light is a staple beer for this market.

Keystone Light Smell

Keystone Light’s smell, like its flavor, is minimal and lacks much character or bitterness. There’s none of the skunky hop-forwardness of some other macro brews. Instead, faint grainy notes rise off the top of the beer, making an honest promise about the flavors to come with your first sip. The beer has little to no smell, and you’d have to be looking to smell it to notice the graininess.

What Do Other People Think?

It’s always a good idea to consider the opinions of your fellow beer drinkers when examining a beer. We looked at various reviews and weighted the scores to give you an idea of how other beer drinkers feel about Keystone Light.

PlatformKeystone Light
Average Score4.42

As you can see, Keystone Light’s average score is relatively poor. At just below 5/10, it is not a favorite among seasoned beer drinkers. Most beer reviewers are experienced drinkers who prefer bigger, bolder flavors. Keystone, as a mass-produced light lager, is a beer that does not appeal to an older market. However, one Beeradvocate reviewer had a positive spin on this American staple:

You cannot beat a Keystone. I’m telling you if your looking to be complex this is not for you but for those who are looking for a beer to drink all day long at the beach and not gain 30 pounds this is it.

It gets a bad rap for being “cheap horse piss” but seriously the flavor is better than most cheap light beers (the exception being Miller Lite which is probably equal), it drinks well and you can’t beat the price. 

And who doesn’t love the marketing genius that invented Keith Stone? I love good beer, I love craft beer and trying new things but when it’s hot and I know I’m going to down a pack or two I’ll always grab a stone.